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Title: Dream of an elsewhere : contemporary African American travel writing
Author: Winfield, G.
Awarding Body: Nottingham Trent University
Current Institution: Nottingham Trent University
Date of Award: 2013
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African American literature is infused with travel. Experiences of physical journeying have been pivotal to the story of men and women of African descent in the United States for hundreds of years, since the original traumatic forced displacement of the Middle Passage that generated a diasporic subjectivity intertwined with corporeal motion. The subsequent emancipatory journey to freedom, as recited in slave narratives, decentred the coercive migrations of the slave trade by coupling the subversive act of self-directed movement through geographical space with a collective understanding of liberty. Wanderings in the period after the Civil War, followed by the momentous collective Great Migratory journeys of the twentieth century, as well as the countless and ongoing voyages to the ancestral continent of Africa spanning four centuries, has only deepened the criticality of travel to African American history and cultural production. However, African American travel writing has received only a small amount of scholarly attention. Moreover, of that scant consideration, the focus has tended to be on narratives of involuntary or economically necessitated movement. Thorough academic study of the contemporary literature of African American travel beyond these domains is rare, despite the potential rewards of such an endeavour for researchers interested in the contemporary (re)construction of African American subjectivity and in the continuing artistic evolution of the changeable and indeterminate travel book form. This thesis argues that the travel text is a highly appropriate vehicle for mobile African Americans journeying in defiance of the imposed classifications of identity and of the constraints of taxonomic and hierarchical genre systems. Chapter One considers contemporary African American travel writing as a performance of genre, in relation to memoir, ethnography and imaginative fiction, fruitfully testing the already elastic boundaries of a form of writing wrongly dismissed as sub-literary. Chapter Two addresses recent narratives of journeys to Africa, considering in particular the contrasting responses of Keith B. Richburg and Saidiya Hartman. Chapter Three attends to the neglected area of domestic or intranational travel literature by examining the work of African Americans journeying within and across the United States. Chapter Four centres upon Natasha Tarpley’s lyrical memoir Girl in the Mirror: Three Generations of Black Women in Motion to assess the changing generational experiences of mobile African American women in the United States. The thesis concludes by reflecting on these texts in relation to postcolonial and Black Atlantic theoretical frameworks.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available